Quiet Vignettes from Yesterday

I woke up thinking the time on my phone had automatically switched forward. It had not. I spent the first hour or two of my day thinking it was a different time. Fortunately, I realized my phone’s problem when I looked at the time on my computer. Unfortunately, the medication I had meant to take earlier was taken later than expected. My body’s clock was off too, it’s okay.

Lesson learned: you can’t always trust technology has everything figured out before you. Thank god we still have some control on what happens on our small devices, even when it completely messes up your perception of the day for a good five minutes or so.

I laid in my bed for a good forty-five minutes, allowing my eyes to rest. My eyes were screaming at me in silence for pushing them to look up their own without craning my neck up to see a screen that was about twenty feet away from me. Swollen muscles were pulled in directions they didn’t want to go. A fan was blowing air and my phone was blasting the sound of rain in springtime. I was focused on my breathing, hands on my belly as I felt the air drift in and out of my lungs. My eyes eventually calmed, enjoying a moment without needing to stare at anything or completely drift off to sleep. I couldn’t remember the last time I was this still for this long.

I was reading a book I could not put down. I told myself I would read one more chapter three chapters and thirty pages ago. I hadn’t been that into a book in quite some time. I was reminded of why I love telling stories. Those moments where I’m transported into someone’s mind have always been my favorite. The fan was still blowing air.

Emotion washed over me like a wave I didn’t see coming. I couldn’t articulate words correctly because I had a difficult time trying to comprehend this unexpected feeling. It’s like I ran into a wall without looking and now I’m conflicted within myself. It’s difficult to feel something and have no idea how to articulate it. Tears fell from my eyes. These tears were more intense than I’m used to, so I hunched over and cried more. No one understood what was happening, neither did I exactly.

My eyes were screaming at me in silence for crying. So I cried more because pain has no limits when I’ve already unlocked the box of tears. My eyes felt heavy like they’re experiencing dual migraines. I didn’t know this feeling was possible. Maybe it’s not, and I was just overthinking things as I often tend to do.

I had been waiting all day to eat this cookie dough ice cream, and after taking my fifth and final pill of the day, I was slurping it down while finishing a New Yorker article I had slowly been reading for the last couple of days. The springtime rain blasted from my phone once again as I tried to comprehend the words on the page as best I could. Names often bleed together when so many are mentioned in the course of a single section. It’s crazy to read about what people choose to overlook and how things could have been different if someone was brave enough to speak up.

I was reading a chapter of another book before falling asleep. The more I looked at the lines, the words began to float off the page, detaching from the original text to become two. My eyes were done for the day, signaling through a pretty frightful message that I had gone numb to, that whatever was on the page wasn’t worth it. I took off my glasses and turned off the light. I snuggled into my comforter as a horn from a train travels across the night air into my ears as I gave my eyes what they wanted: rest.

Important Note

Unexpected events can often spark 
the flight or fight response. 

Overwhelming thoughts that present
the worst to the extreme

come barging into your head when the universe
takes you down a road without

giving you a heads up before the decision is made.
In those moments, the only thing 

you can control is how you react to those shifts.
I've always been someone who either

ignores the shift to process it later or panic
with uncontrollable emotions.

I'm trying to change this by beginning
to embrace meditation,

taking time to settle my thoughts
and focus on the now

instead of taking a negative thought
and running with it into the fire.

The ways in which you conduct yourself
when unplanned things occur

says a lot about how you control nerves.
Finding ways to calm

your emotions before they become heightened
is important for your mental health.

Fighting the Urge of Phone Addiction

Awareness of a technology addiction is one thing. Trying to change habits that are so ingrained in your psyche is a whole other beast. I’ve known for years now how dependent I am on technology. I’ve joked about it with family and friends. Joking about it makes it not real. Joking about it makes it a silly habit.

It wasn’t until Apple had a software update called screentime that shows how much time you spend on your phone that I was faced with the reality of what my casual phone habit had become. Once I could see the hours I raked up by numbers and data instead of estimates in my head, things didn’t change, at least not right away. I’d continue my old habits despite the evidence I spend too much had looming in my head several times. A few times, I even took off screentime so I didn’t have to know how many hours I was spending on my phone.

These last few months have been difficult and I found myself slipping into the habit of checking my phone at least every few minutes, if not every thirty seconds. I knew I had a lot going on so I thought it was okay to be distracted. That’s how I’ve always coped with unexpected shifts and major changes in my life. It comes as natural to me as breathing.

It’s not until I have distracted myself long enough that I can begin to really process and accept what is happening that I become aware of how much of a time suck a small screen can be. The worst part is being aware of a bad habit and trying to control it instead of allowing it to control me. It’s a battle within myself, my conscious mind trying to step into my subconscious. It takes time and hard work to change bad habits. Trial and error without judgment or criticism of myself are hard. Elimination of it all together only lasts for so long. Blocking of apps cost money. Setting controls and time constraints don’t work when I know the password.

Finally, I had enough of this and I asked my mom put in a passcode into my phone so I wasn’t able to extend past the limits I had set for myself. From 10 pm to 9 am, a lot of the apps on my phone are blocked off. This allows me to begin and end my day by doing other things or using my phone in a more productive way. For apps I use the most (i.e. Instagram), I have a two hour limit within that eleven-hour time span to be on it and when time’s up, I no longer have access to it unless I ask my mom to put in the code, which is surprisingly rare.

Now, a lot of you might be reading this and think, “two hours is a long time to be on an app.” I know it is. I could be doing more productive things with my time. However, I used to spend so much more time on that app, the number is too high for me to want to share it. Two hours is a reasonable and big drop from how much time I was spending on it before. It forces me to balance things in a way I wasn’t able to before. With only having a limited amount of time on an app, I have to prioritize my time if I want to check it throughout the day. Because once time’s up, I have to wait until tomorrow to check it again.

It’s been a real learning lesson for me. It’s better than eliminating it altogether and I’ve had to hold myself accountable for this habit I had unknowingly created. Obviously, I’m not the only one who has a social media/phone habit. Apple wouldn’t have created this screentime feature if only a few people had a problem. There wouldn’t be apps like Forest that forces you to step away from your phone any time from 10 minutes to two hours in exchange to build a tree and create a forest to have you focus and be present in your life. In the Apple app store, it’s said that over 2 million people in 126 countries have used this app in order to control their screentime.

The urge to always be on my phone is real. It’s both comforting and terrifying to know that I’m not the only one who spends too much time on my phone. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to spend less time on social media. I’m trying to break bad habits and find balance in my life. After months and years of struggling with my social media activity, I’m beginning to find balance and change how I use social media.

We’re living in a time where social media and the news cycle is both addictive and overwhelming. How much is too much? When living in a digital age, how do you find balance between using your time online vs. offline? How do you stay focused on what matters? Are you aware of how much time you’re spending on your phone? If you were able to see it in numbers, would you be willing to change?

There’s a real urge to look at your phone whenever you can. You only feel it when you’re trying to fight yourself from looking at it. All of this technology is still very new and it will be interesting to see what the future brings. Smartphones are already becoming less exciting with the updates not being extravagant enough for people wanting to upgrade their phones.

I’ve been reading articles about smartphone addiction and I came across this article worth reading. The fact that there’s shame around how much we use our phones is crazy to me. And yet, I don’t want to admit how many hours a day I was on my phone before I really began to find a balance because it’s embarrassing. I once told some people about how much I was on when it was on the low spectrum for me and they were appalled by how much time I was spending.

But then, once some of them started using screentime and began seeing their minutes add up, they began to change their tune. One of them even told me, “I didn’t realize how quickly all that time added up until I actually saw the numbers.” What can we do to fight this habit? It’s different for every person. For me, I try not to have my phone on or around me when I’m around other people. Setting time limits, build a tree with the Forest app, and leaving my phone in another room when I’m trying to not have it around me.

The first step is being aware of how you use your phone and why you gravitate towards it. The next step is to make a change. It’s not easy fighting the urge of a bad habit but if we want our future to be controlled by people and not robots, we need to begin the process now before it’s too late.

No Point of Reference

With each passing day, I’ve come to realize that for the last twenty-five years I have lived in my body, I haven’t really known the skin I’ve lived in. In the sense that I don’t pay attention to something until I’m forced to look at it by way of injury or illness.

The same questions run through my head every time as I try to access memories I do not have. Has this always been this way? Has this changed? What is different about this? Could it be different? Maybe? Or am I just now seeing this for the first time? These questions are better than what I automatically told myself when I was dealing with things as a teenager. I’m going to die. What I’m experiencing will kill me sooner than I wish. Somehow everything leads to death. I’d imagine myself having a different life from this one very minor but must be a life-altering moment for me. Of course, none of what I imagined actually happened and thankfully, my extreme anxiety has morphed into obsessive questioning (I know they both sound bad but at least one seems slightly more productive.)

Because I don’t pay attention to my body and it’s apparent creeks and shapes, when something out of the norm happens, I’m left feeling like a blind duck, waddling down an unfamiliar street. Without a point of reference, I’m left assessing a body part I haven’t paid too much attention to and asking the questions above while reminding myself not to panic, this may have been always been my normal and I just haven’t noticed it until now.

Referencing an old memory with my body when encountering present questioning is never ideal. I overcompensate for lost memories by creating stories in my head that are probably not true but they must be real because they’re the only things that give me comfort in this very moment. My thyroid has always been this size. Of course, my left hip has always popped. I did hear that noise coming from my left side while I was in the air. I can still walk. My eyes can squint again. That’s a stress zit, not a hormonal pimple. Most of these are true, while some are rationalized statements that don’t necessarily add up to the reality I live in but choose to believe at the moment so I don’t return to that younger version of myself.

This year has been a lot. I’ve realized how much I’ve grown and areas of my life where growth could be good for me. One thing I’ve realized from so many unexpected health issues throughout my life is how much I choose to ignore something until I’m forced to feel it. I do this in many aspects in my life, but my body in particular, has made me realize how much of my own skin and bones I do not know out of fear of what could happen if I do acknowledge it. Though I’m no longer a teenager, I must admit that fear and jumping to conclusions still lingers. Forgotten moments don’t help and questioning or telling myself false truths are good for a little while but not for a lifetime. In moments like these, I often wish I knew more about my body so when I’m in pain or something looks or feels off, I know what’s my normal. Maybe by writing this, I can develop reference points that will keep me from worrying as much in the future.

My Essay Is Now Published!!

I won’t be posting a review today. Instead, I have some very exciting news. One of my essays is published!! I wrote this essay for a class in the spring of 2017. It’s about my journey to beginning to acknowledge my stutter and how that coincided with finding my passion for writing.

For almost a year, I had submitted this piece to different publications and received one rejection after another. I had gotten a DM from Z Publishing on Twitter in late April, asking if I was interested in submitting a piece for their upcoming emerging writers from Colorado anthology. I decided that this was going to be the last piece I would submit this piece to before completely rewriting it. I had submitted my essay in early May and forgot about it for about a month.

In the middle of June, I thought I didn’t get it because I hadn’t heard from them. But, by the end of the month, I got an email congratulating me on having my essay being accepted for publication. I’m still on cloud nine and can’t believe this is happening. This is only the beginning!

If you want to read my entire essay, “Finding My Voice,” you can purchase Colorado’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Nonfiction on Amazon or Z Publishing.